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J Biol Chem. 2012 Oct 19;287(43):36071-80. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.390013. Epub 2012 Sep 4.

C-terminal domains of N-methyl-D-aspartic acid receptor modulate unitary channel conductance and gating.

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Neuroscience Program, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, New York 14214, USA.


NMDA receptors (NRs) are glutamate-gated calcium-permeable channels that are essential for normal synaptic transmssion and contribute to neurodegeneration. Tetrameric proteins consist of two obligatory GluN1 (N1) and two GluN2 (N2) subunits, of which GluN2A (2A) and GluN2B (2B) are prevalent in adult brain. The intracellularly located C-terminal domains (CTDs) make a significant portion of mass of the receptors and are essential for plasticity and excitotoxicity, but their functions are incompletely defined. Recent evidence shows that truncation of the N2 CTD alters channel kinetics; however, the mechanism by which this occurs is unclear. Here we recorded activity from individual NRs lacking the CTDs of N1, 2A, or 2B and determined the gating mechanisms of these receptors. Receptors lacking the N1 CTDs had larger unitary conductance and faster deactivation kinetics, receptors lacking the 2A or 2B CTDs had longer openings and longer desensitized intervals, and the first 100 amino acids of the N2 CTD were essential for these changes. In addition, receptors lacking the CTDs of either 2A or 2B maintained isoform-specific kinetic differences and swapping CTDs between 2A and 2B had no effect on single-channel properties. Based on these results, we suggest that perturbations in the CTD can modify the NR-mediated signal in a subunit-dependent manner, in 2A these effects are most likely mediated by membrane-proximal residues, and the isoform-specific biophysical properties conferred by 2A and 2B are CTD-independent. The kinetic mechanisms we developed afford a quantitative approach to understanding how the intracellular domains of NR subunits can modulate the responses of the receptor.

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